Disclaimer: I own very little.

A/N: More in the universe of Captain Meeting from Hell.

Warnings: Darkfic, character deaths.


It seemed strange somehow, to be gathered like this, waiting for news all together as though it was their own life on the line and not their friends'. However, it was the only thing they could do; everyone looking for support in the rest of the team as they all hoped and feared the same things. And if they'd accepted Hyoutei's generous offer, well… that was only because Hyoutei had the best information. The only information, really. The news couldn't tell much, not even give an exact figure of how many had died; Hyoutei, at least, could tell them when hope was futile.

Inui sighed as he watched his team, all huddled close together, waiting, just waiting like everyone else. Some people were talking quietly among themselves, the borders between the teams starting to blur, friends seeking each other out regardless of the colour of their uniforms. At any other time, it would have been pleasant, seeing a Seigaku player sitting among Fudoumine or someone from Yamabuki talking with Hyoutei; however, under these circumstances, he couldn't bring himself to find any pleasure from this sudden unity of spirit.

The consensus wasn't complete, anyway; for while everyone knew people in other teams as well and sympathized with their losses, ultimately everyone wished for the same – to get their own captain and vice-captain back alive. And for that, someone else's had to die.

Fuji shifted a bit, his opened eyes empty, staring off into the distance even as he stroked idly his brother's hair, Yuuta leaning against him. Upon the first news, when nobody seemed to know anything, Fuji had been one of the calmest ones; even as the news told the kidnappers had threatened to kill, Fuji had been the one to soothe others' fears, don't worry Eiji Oishi wouldn't die when he has you to come back to. Then, though, there had been the call – Inui knew not what its contents were, only that he'd received it from his friend, Rokkaku's Saeki – and then the first word from Hyoutei.

Inui didn't even know where they'd got his number, Atobe's connections probably, but nevertheless it had been himself Hyoutei's Oshitari had called. They had data from the inside, Oshitari had told, his voice obviously staying calm only with a great effort. Atobe had managed to send messages. They knew who had died, and would likely continue to receive the news; would Seigaku be willing to join them in waiting for the return of the survivors?

As soon as they had arrived here, Oshitari had indeed provided them with the names of the two who had already died. Upon hearing Saeki's name, Fuji's eyes had flown wide with a quiet whisper of, "no" – the last word he had uttered since then. Inui could only presume the Fuji brothers were seeking support from each other.

And now, they were waiting for more news, along with what seemed to be most of Tokyo's junior high school tennis circuit – and, if he wasn't badly mistaken, a few other teams as well.

Kikumaru was asleep, his exhaustion having finally grown greater than his anxiety, restlessly writhing even in his sleep. Inui couldn't even imagine how hard it was for him; after all, Inui himself hardly shared such a strong bond with either Tezuka or Oishi. They were his friends, true enough, but he had never looked into either of their soul. And given Kikumaru's emotional nature… Inui could only pity him.

There was some kind of a fuss within the circle of Hyoutei players, a wave of tension flying over the large hall. Everyone instantly turned to look, both waiting for more news and dreading them. As Inui spotted the cell phone in Kabaji's hand – their sole faltering connection to the closed-off world of their leaders – he swallowed. Yes, it was indeed news.

Wordlessly handing the cell phone to Oshitari, Kabaji then sat down again, not saying anything even as his team mates and the closest other players bombarded him with questions. Inui, on the other hand, turned his attention to Oshitari; Hyoutei's genius had almost made his way to the small stage at the front of the room.

"Please list'n calmly," Oshitari said as he had turned on the microphone they had set up on the stage. The words echoed clearly over the suddenly very silent room, every pair of eyes fixed on Oshitari. This was it. This would mean one more sliver of hope lost forever… one more life.

"We've received another message from Atobe," Oshitari continued. "I'll now read it, just as he's written it." After a small pause, he cleared his throat, then slowly and carefully read aloud what he saw on the small screen of the cell phone. The words sunk into Inui's consciousness like sharp knives, painful and clear.

"20.07 today, Seigaku's Oishi dies of a gunshot to the chest."

"It's not logical," Inui whispered to himself, hardly even grasping the reality of what Oshitari said. "It's just not logical…"

"…Why?" Momoshiro turned to look at him. "Why'd Oishi-senpai be dead? It's not like his family's poor or anything, they don't have any reason to kill him, they just don't!"

Inui carefully avoided mentioning that when compared with the likes of Atobe, Oishi was as good as a beggar out on the streets. Instead, he slowly shook his head, trying to make some sense of the news. "There's a 82 percent chance," he finally managed to get out, "a 82 percent chance Oishi died attempting to protect someone else." Oishi. Seigaku's mother. He always did worry about others before himself.

The silence was a thing of the past now, people talking with hushed voices that still seemed to fill the entire large space. Many approached them to offer their consolations; Oishi had been well known in other teams, doubtlessly thanks to his kind and helpful nature. Inui, however, kept his eyes fixed on one sole figure.

Kikumaru was still asleep.

"I think," Inui said slowly, "I think it would be for the better if nobody told Kikumaru of this just yet." Of course, Kikumaru would have to find out sooner or later, but… until now, only their constant encouragement had managed to keep him from falling into desperation over his doubles partner. The longer he waited, the more prepared he would hopefully be to accept the idea of Oishi not returning after all. Now was just too soon.

"I agree," Fuji replied quietly, the sound of his voice actually startling Inui a bit. "Eiji… I don't think he can handle it yet. It'd break him."

Inui nodded in agreement, hardly even noticing as the word immediately started to spread, everyone deciding to spare Kikumaru from the shocking news just for a moment longer. Inui, however, found himself wondering just when Kikumaru would be ready to handle such news.

Perhaps, he found himself thinking, perhaps he never would be.